Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this issue. It is interesting that we are dealing with legislation called “Protecting Canada's Seniors Act”, which is effectively a one paragraph bill. The title is almost longer than the bill itself. It is especially interesting that we are dealing with this after we dealt yesterday with an opposition day motion on the issue of the OAS and moving the age from 65 to 67.
We can tie all of these issues together and I do not think any of them are particularly helpful when we talk about the future of our seniors. A lot of the issues are tied into the vulnerability of seniors, poverty, lack of independence. Therefore, rather than have a comprehensive review of how many different areas we could improve on, we have one paragraph that criminalizes people
Many of the people I have talked to say that it is usually their family members who unfortunately are the ones who abuse the elderly, the mother, the father or whomever. I cannot find any people who say that they will have their son, daughter or daughter-in-law charged, which is all the bill would allow to happen. A frail, elderly person would run away from that.
I do not think the bill will do a whole lot, but, again, the government will stand and tell us all the wonderful things it will do to protect seniors. No one I know would put his or her son, daughter, family member or caregiver in jail.
To get to the seriousness of the issues, the world population is expected to exceed 9.2 billion people by 2050. This means that in less than two generations, the number of people on planet earth will grow by as much as 34%. Of that number, it is expected that people who are 55 years of age or older will constitute the largest segment of the human population. It is certainly a group of people to whom we need to pay attention.
Today, Canadians over the age of 55 make up about 27% of our entire national population and that number is expected to grow to 35% by 2031, which is only 19 years away. It might feel like a long way away, but it really is not.
These changing demographics mean that we must prepare and make certain that the seniors today and in the future have the protection they need, and the bill does very little in that way.
Seniors are a gift that we all need to treasure. We all hope to be a senior some day. Having a robust and growing seniors population is positive thing for our society and we need to be investing in all of the health and wellness opportunities. Yes, seniors are living longer, but that is because there is a lot more initiatives for them to be involved in and there is much more focus on living better and living longer.
If we look around, seniors for the most part are volunteering. They are community leaders, resources people and they are the keepers of our country's institutional knowledge, something that we need to treasure, count on and rely on for guidance. We all think we know everything, but when we get advice from those who were there before us, we often learn many things.
Seniors are an asset that can continue to help Canada advance and develop, but in return they deserve our respect, our appreciation and, most important, our protection.
Elder abuse is a reality in our world, not just in Canada, very sadly, but it is a reality with which we are all attempting to deal. Statistics Canada reports that in 2009 more than 154,000 Canadians over the age of 55 reported having been victims of not just of any crime, but of violent crime.
These people are our mothers, fathers, grandparents, neighbours and friends. They are victimized at a rate far greater than one would expect to see in the national population, and 154,000 represents 2% of the population in that age bracket.
Clearly we do not have the required legal and social safeguards in place and that is what has brought us to this point. Will Bill C-36 do the trick? Unfortunately, no.
While I applaud the government for at least acknowledging that this problem exists, I am very disappointed with what the minister has set out on the table as a solution.